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NAB's next boss has a "mountain to climb" to fix culture


The next chief executive of NAB has a “mountain to climb” to bring the bank into line with community expectations, its outgoing chairman believes.

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Ken Henry has expressed the sentiment after both he and NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn resigned from the bank on Thursday, in the aftermath of the financial services royal commission.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s final report – made public on Monday – expressed serious concerns about the pair’s leadership and failings that included charging fees for no service.

“Overall, my fear – that there may be a wide gap between the public face NAB seeks to show and what it does in practice – remains,” Commissioner Hayne said.

In a media call, Henry said he agreed with Hayne that there is a big gap between what NAB aspires to be and what it currently is.

The bank’s next chief executive will need to be able to deliver a new culture that delivers good service to customers every time and everywhere, he added.

“We all know we’re on the right path, but we’re nowhere near the top of the mountain. The CEO that we bring in as Andrew’s successor has to take us to the top of the mountain.”

Thorburn, who was chief executive since August 2014, took the opportunity to apologise for his role in the bank’s failures.

“I’m disappointed about that, I’m sorry for that and I’m accountable for that.”

Thorburn will finish at NAB on February 28, while Henry indicated he would retire from the board once a new permanent CEO had been appointed.

Philip Chronican, a current NAB director with extensive domestic banking experience, will serve as acting CEO from March 1 until a permanent appointment is made.

The NAB board will initiate a global search process for the CEO role while actively considering a range of quality internal candidates.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg did not wish to respond to the resignations, saying it’s not for him to comment on individual cases.

But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the resignations would be of little comfort to victims of the banking industry.

“They don’t want to just see a couple of bankers kissed goodbye with golden handshakes,” he said.

“They want real change to cut the rot out of our banks. This is what the Royal Commission has recommended.

“We must start legislating on these recommendations before the election.”


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